Friday, 19 September 2014
Thank You Police
Thank you notes are a big deal in my family, both the one I grew up in and the one I married into. The day after Christmas was set aside for writing the obligatory notes. “Have you written your thank yous yet?” With that we gathered our supplies and hunkered down before the fire. “What do I say to Aunt Betty? I think the green purse she sent is ugly!” Determined to train me as a Southern lady, Mom would remind me that Aunt Betty couldn’t help it if she was from New Jersey and that she doesn’t have much money and that she didn’t have to send me anything. Then she’d help me find words to match the glimmer of gratitude she had stirred.
Our kids received the same training, but without the Southern accent. The annual ritual required a certain amount of external discipline until the appropriate internal motivation developed. One year some inappropriate motivation threatened to develop when one of the relatives informed us that “a certain child” wouldn’t be getting a gift this year unless he coughed up thanks for last year’s present. That child got right on it. Fortunately we didn’t have to turn him over to the thank you police.
How different from our dutiful appreciation is Paul’s heartfelt gratitude to the Philippians. In our final section Philippians 4:10-23 Paul ends his letter the way he begins it, by giving thanks. At the beginning he thanked God for them, now he concludes by thanking them directly for their monetary gift to him in prison. But he goes far beyond thanks. He uses this occasion to teach, encourage, and give an eternal perspective that only comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Discussion question of the week. As you study this section, keep this question before you: What makes Paul’s expression of gratitude different from a typical “thank you note”? You might find it helpful to make two columns, one side containing elements of notes you or your kids have written, and the other enumerating the specifics Paul covers. Once you’ve seen the differences answer this one: How does the finished work of Christ account for the difference? Another way to put it is: How does the gospel produce the grace of gratitude?
Applying this passage should be a lot of fun. As you study, I’ll bet the Lord will bring to mind people you would like to thank. I want to encourage each of us to follow through on those thoughts with at least one actual email or call or note. Letting your gratitude overflow into actual words will bless you as well as them and bring glory to God, the source of all this grace.